It seems hard to imagine leaving or seeking something different -- besides, perhaps, a more sane climate in September. After all, many of us sought to live in New Orleans, seduced by Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest or a magical night that suggested the world of possibilities the city could hold. For the singer-songwriter Myshkin, moving has been a constant in her life; after nine years here, she moved to Portland, Ore., in 2002.
"I thought it might be a receptive place for what I do. I was ready to try something new, really," she says. With much of the city unemployed, she found a community of people who had both the inclination and the time to make art.
Myshkin recounts her travels by phone from Tucson. She's starting to tour in support of Corvidae (Double Salt), the follow-up to her excellent Rosebud Bullets album, but first, she's enjoying "some chill time in the desert," an atmosphere she says is in her blood since she lived in northern New Mexico. The Indiana native moved there after college, then a few years later drifted to New Orleans.
"I had this little school bus that I lived in for a year, and ended up in New Orleans," she says. "Parked the bus in the backyard and let it rot."
While here, she recorded five albums, and though there are some new, electronic touches like loops on tracks like "Saving of the Day," Corvidae isn't a radical departure. In fact, she recorded half of the tracks a year and a half ago with drummer Scott Magee and bassist Brent Martens -- the band she brought with her from New Orleans. Arranging tours and taking care of business kept her from focusing on those recordings, so she didn't complete them at that time.
Soon after, Myshkin met Sailor Banks, a multi-instrumentalist who recorded electronic music under the name Sugar Shortwave. Banks was looking for something to produce and Myshkin had some songs she didn't know what to do with, so they got together. "Saving of the Day" emerged from those sessions, and the song and the musical ideas embedded in it determined the sound of the disc. With subtle loops, an almost imperceptible electronic undercurrent adds a moody quality to the songs.
Besides providing musicians to affect her sound -- albeit slightly -- Portland also provided subject matter for the song, "For Mimi In Jail." The song, written in response to a letter from a fan who was imprisoned for protesting, starts, "As brave as you are / you will only get braver," and advises the writer, "Keep an ear out / for the wild voice inside you." Still, Myshkin wrote many of the songs while traveling. "It's actually easier on the road because there's a lot of down time and I don't have to think about the business aspect anymore," she says. "I feel more freed up. There's different stimulus."
She toured Europe last fall and was in Holland on election night. "We were watching on Dutch TV, BBC and CNN, skipping back and forth," she recalls. The Dutch coverage, she says, was almost incredulous in wondering why America was re-electing President George W. Bush. "That's pretty much the reaction we got everywhere we went. People just wanted to talk about, What is going on in America? Why is this happening?'"
Corvidae began as an anti-war record; the angrier material didn't make the record. "I was left with the somber stuff," Myshkin says. "It's kind of a low-key record and much more intimate than the last one." Though quieter than initially intended, the anti-war message remains in many songs. She wrote "The Dance," for instance, about her grandmother's experience in an internment camp in Indonesia. "They took our son to another camp / I don't know when we'll get him back," she sings.
"My idea was to do a lot of women's stories of war," Myshkin says. "Women and children caught in a war zone is something that just isn't dealt with or looked at very often. Quite often they're the victims of aggression, but not often the participants." The current political climate is such that Myshkin says, choosing her words carefully, that Portland's her home "until I leave this country entirely, which is seeming more ... appealing, as time goes by." With family in Holland, she has even gone so far as to look into the residency requirements. Still, she says, "It's kind of crowded there," a major concern you'd think for someone who has moved as much as she has. "There's not much wild space."